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From Gaza to Geneva:
The Peace Initiative of Israelis and Palestinians


In the summer of 2005, Israelis evacuated the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern parts of the West Bank. This recent development provides new options for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The status that the Israeli policy wanted to create after 1967 in both territories is no longer irreversible.

Reiner Bernstein is engaged in past and present Middle East affairs, espe­cially in the relations between Israel and the Palestinians. His main interest is the evaluation of Israeli-Jewish and Arab-Islamic narratives on political decisions in both societies. In his new book he defends the notion that the hundred-year-old conflict is based on an absolute struggle about history, geography, and religious symbols. Social justice and willingness to work for political peace with the neighbouring people have only recently become understood as more worthy than messianic passions.

At the beginning of the book, the author analyses the failures of the Oslo agreements of 1993/95 and the collapse of the Camp David summit talks in July 2000. Afterwards he discusses the inherent indecisiveness of the “Road Map.” Against this backdrop he addresses in detail the Geneva peace initiative that Israelis und Palestinians presented to the international public in December 2003 under the leadership of Yossi Beilin und Yasser Abed Rabbo. It attracted much international attention all around the world, because this was the first time that members of parliament and of security services, scholars, business people and authors from both sides had drafted a comprehensive peace plan. The Geneva peace intitiative refrains from lengthy interpretations and compromises. Instead it proffers specific regulations for the central problems of the conflict: the two-states solution alongside the “Green Line” of 1967, the removal of the Jewish settlements, the establishment of Jerusalem as capital of both states, the Palestinian refugee problem as well as answers to bilateral security questions.

Despite initial opposition to it, the Geneva Initiative is on its way to being largely accepted by the Israeli and the Palestinian societies as a starting-point for official negotiations to come. Both peoples are beginning to understand that further interim agreements are only useful if carried out on the level of national equality.

Today the Israeli government still seems to insist on the viewpoint of “Gaza first – Gaza last.” Indeed, when negotiations about political and territorial follow-ups start in autumn of 2005, the relevance of the Jewish religious narrative concerning “Judea and Samaria” as the cradle of Jewish history and of “Palestine” as part of the Islamic endowment will appear on the agenda.
The drafters of the Geneva Initiative must therefore see to it that new democratic majorities prevail in both societies. Only then can their particular ideas for conflict resolution gain outstanding significance for the political future.

The book is rounded off by the text of the Geneva Initiative, the names of all Israeli and Palestinian partners, a bibliography and a glossary. The foreword was written by the chairman of the “Heinrich Böll Stiftung”, Ralf Fücks, and epilogues by Yasser Abed Rabbo and Yossi Beilin.

Reiner Bernstein ist Historiker und verantwortet die Homepage / 01-12-05

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